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"That Perhaps They Might Bring Them unto Repentance," Alma 17:1-17

Alma 17:1-17

Considered to be one of the greatest scriptural passages on missionary work in all of holy writ, there are in these introductory verses principles that are universal in one's approach to service in the kingdom of God.

Verse 16 talks about the cause for which the sons of Mosiah had undertaken this work: "that perhaps they might bring them unto repentance; that perhaps they might bring them to know of the plan of redemption." (emphasis added) The use of the word "perhaps" twice in this passage, illustrates one significant eternal reality. It's not a game of chance. However, it could be termed as a risky and very unpredictable investment. We do not know the outcomes of our labors. We would like to think that we could see how things will pan out from the outset, but such is not our privilege and such would void the exercise of faith. And so it is that that prospects of repentance are here couched with this qualifier that "perhaps they might bring them unto repentance... and to know of the plan of redemption."

It seems that to understand the unpredictable nature of missionary work is a key to successfully developing such a venture. We plant many seeds, then we must be discerning as to which seeds will grow and how and when.

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Back at the beginning of the chapter, there is a phrase that to me is most gratifying. "...And what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord;" These verses create the desire to have such reunions with friends that we have grown with spiritually over the years. There is a kinship and friendship, not unlike the relationship with close family members, that such a reunion fosters.

And I almost feel that words are not enough to explain the significance of this passage: to be converted to the Lord together, and then separated for so long, and then again, to be reunited after such length and to discover that the years that have passed have proven to be spiritually refining on both sides of the reunion. Again, works are inadequate to describe such feelings of joy and thanksgiving.

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Enough commentary, what are the principles of missionary work defined in these verses?

  • Diligent Scripture Study - "they... searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God." (vs.2)
  • Much Fasting and Prayer - This was the key to their success, for it entitled them to the spirit of prophecy and revelation, "and when they taught, they taught with power and authority from God." (vs. 3)
We talk much about teaching by the spirit in this Church, and indeed it is true. What I fail to recognize is that the full description for teaching by the spirit is the spirit of prophecy or the spirit of revelation.

  • Power of the Word - It was through their diligent efforts to preach the word of God that they saw much success, that is many were brought to repentance. (vs. 4)
  • Patience in Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Afflictions/Sufferings -missionary work is not easy, and requires exertion of all faculties: body, mind, heart, and spirit. (vs. 5)
  • Personal Sacrifice - The sons of Mosiah sacrificed personal prestige to be enlisted in the Lord's service. (vs. 6
In verses 9 - 12, the realization of these principles was a clear manifestation of the Spirit to them. They had first fasted and prayed and diligently sought that the Spirit of the Lord would be with them in their labors. Then after their personal exertions and sacrifice, the voice of the Spirit came unto them bidding them to be comforted, and then giving instructions and permission to go forth among the Lamanites. Now they had more than just faith, they had a commandment from the Lord Himself, personal instruction and inspiration that sanctioned their entrance as missionaries among the Lamanites. 

    Comments

    1. I have noticed that word "perhaps" in that scripture for a long time. I think you have explained the meanings behind it very well. Thanks for this post.

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      1. Thanks Michaela for the comment. Blogger use to notify me when I got new comments. I didn't realize anyone was commenting on my blogs until today. Glad it's helped.

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